Effective security audit key

We have dealt widely the multi dimensional issue of Pathan-kot incident but the core issue remains the security at the Air Force base. Pathankot Air Base has the distinction of producing many heroes in the wars of 1965 and 1971.

The terror attack stirs our emotions. The incident calls for horizontal thinking in the present day security context where force multiplication has become a popular theme and in the process, the acquisition of modern tools of security is the core thrust area. Be it CCTV cameras, human censors or laser walls – in the process of acquiring these high-tech instruments, we are losing sight of conventional wisdom and horizontal thinking. Insufficiency of our efforts manifests in inadequacy and any thought must revolve around this. 

Security measures have to keep pace with time and can not be relegated in priority but there is no substitute to the basics. They must be rigidly and professionally adhered to. There had been many postmortems and a lot has been written on the attack. The pendulum has been shifting from the mode of entry in crossing the border to the lax security by the Punjab police and of course, the breach of security at the Air Base. 

It is true that the security environment of the area has to be taken into consideration while drafting security mechanism of any vital installation. But the paramount role is played by the security set up to cater to the needs of high security nodes. The state police forces have virt-ually no role in guarding army establishments or being part of the security drill. It is an exclusive domain of the armed forces to guard and protect such bases. 

The attack on parliament in 2001 and the attack on the Air Base have many similarities as both are the products of handiwork of Jaish-e-Mohammad using suicide squads. The attack on parliament could take place through defined access and in Pathankot, it is breach of perimeter security. There is no dispute that these security mechanisms failed on both the occasions due to lack of effective security audit. 

There are whispers about lax, general security environment in the area. These are few bizarre and ludicrous thoughts which may drift priority and have to be neglected. Any argument that this intrusion could be attributed to anything except the weak perimeter security or ineffective access control will be misplaced and shelter the inadequacies of thought.
There had been news reports indicating inadequacy in the perimeter wall or potential access through sewage pipes etc which is astonishing in the contemporary security scenario, where culture of security audit is deeply ingrained and it is unimaginable how such basic flaws could persist. In fact, the security audit is a drill performed at regular intervals, reports prepared and presented to the commandant of the unit and shared with higher formations. It is imperative to take measures based on threat perception.

Gradations in threat perception and security measures have been used for many years and have virtually developed universal applicabilities. Returning to Pathankot, I’m sure that an airbase located in such a strategically sensitive advanced location must have undergone repeated security audits and it was incumbent on the part of the authorities concerned to ensure that any flaw in the perimeter security or access control are corrected appropriately. 

The concept of multi-layered perimeter security, used by Russians and American forces, in Afghanistan and even by the Indian armed forces in the insurgency prone areas is a concept in vogue for a long time. Threat perception has to be really appreciated, and the efforts to create fool-proof security have to be translated into action. The mechanical component in the perimeter security is extremely important as much as the human element.

Perimeter security

However, wherever perimeter security needs additional human element or temporary corrections same have to be addressed consequent to the emergency security audit. I recollect an instance where steel sheets were fitted to support a broken wall in paucity of time, to enable strong perimeter security.

Lauding our martyrs as heroes is essential as the human lives lost in the pursuit of national security, but it is equally essential to address the causes to prevent future recurrences.
My experience will indicate that we have carried a strong legacy of British Raj and we are attuned to hear ‘Sahab sab durust hai’ (All is well) – from junior officers and satisfying ourselves despite chink in the armour. Aimed professional growth of security organisations demands that all the drills and security audits must be done in professional manner with right and objective methodology. 

I am afraid that the performance appraisal system lacks absolute objectivity and ascendancy in ranks is not always linked to professional skills. I recollect an instance where a top officer of a very important border guarding force, belonging to a cadre but rarely served in it, demonstrated his ignorance about nuances of security audit by vague talks and later reduced his position by misappropriating certain government properties.  
These are sordid examples of carrier growth at the expense of professional growth. The security system primarily depends on establishing strong security layers, deployment of the trained security personnel and keeping the horizontal vision. The scope of adding vertical strength and force multiplication by equipping with modern tools is essential but is not the substitute to the basic. 

I am sure we need to go back to the basics with zeal and commitment. With purposeful effective security auditing system, we will be able to secure protected areas far better than only looking to deploy force multipliers. After all, we have to achieve the goals and not to present our model of excellence when the core issue of security is so paramount to us.

(The writer is Additional Director General of Police, Bengaluru)
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